Today is a big day for Google’s Android platform. Android 10 is rolling out to Pixel phones today, marking the first time since 2008 Google has released a version of Android without a dessert name. Android 10 also brings several long-overdue features to phones, and it promises better update support going forward. Unfortunately, it’ll take time for phones outside of Google’s Pixel lineup to get the OTA.
Google began testing Android 10 (AKA Android Q) earlier this year with an open beta for Pixel devices, and a few OEMs like OnePlus and Huawei followed with their own test builds. Google has made some adjustments over the months, but there are no major surprises in this release.
Android 10 brings a new gesture navigation system to Android — yes, Google released a “new” gesture navigation system last year, too. The two-button gesture setup from Android Pie didn’t earn many fans, so Google has reworked it in Android 10 to function more like the iPhone. You can swipe up to go home, left and right to change apps, and the back gesture is swiping in from the left or right edge of the screen. Developers will need to update apps to adjust for that gesture, so we could be looking at a rocky few months for apps with a lot of swipe gestures. Thankfully, Google will keep the traditional three-button nav setup around for accessibility reasons.
The system-wide dark theme is also a big deal. Google has toyed with dark themes in several Android beta tests, but now it’s real and developers can build support into their apps. With the dark theme enabled, apps with support will shift to black/gray interfaces that aren’t as hard on your eyes at night. It’ll also save battery on OLED phones.
Security and privacy are also a major focus of Android 10. There is a new unified privacy menu in the settings, and the system treats your location permission as a special case. You can give apps persistent location access or only allow access when the app is open. System updates have always been a pain on Android, but Android 10 supports a feature called Project Mainline. With Mainline, Google can implement important security patches without waiting on OEMs and carriers.
If you can’t wait to get your hands on Android 10, you’d better hope you have a Pixel phone. Those devices will start seeing OTA updates today. If you can’t wait even that long, there are OTA images available for sideloading on Google’s developer site. Other phones will (maybe) get updates in the coming months. Companies like OnePlus and Essential are quick to update phones, but Samsung, LG, and others will take at least 3-4 months to release any updates.